Bradenton's economic uptick spurs city examination

jdeleon@bradenton.comApril 4, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The city of Bradenton looks different today than it did during the Great Recession.

Demographics have changed disqualifying some economically improving areas for enterprise zone economic inducements while making other still-struggling areas eligible.

Volker Reiss, compliance supervisor, listed possible changes to city enterprise zones during a Bradenton City Council workshop Wednesday morning. The changes have been spurred by improving federal economic data involving employment and poverty in Bradenton.

"I just think it is good people are getting jobs and working their way out of poverty," Councilman Patrick Roff said.

The federal government requires an enterprise zone to be re-evaluated any time demographics change, particularly when unemployment or poverty rates are involved. Any area with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher or unemployment above the state average can qualify as an enterprise zone.

"Demographics in the enterprise zone have to match the demographics coming out of the census," Reiss said.

Florida requires cities to use poverty rates provided by the U.S. Census.

"Every time we have the census we have to look to see if we still qualify," Reiss said.

One Bradenton enterprise zone that no longer qualifies is the area bounded by Manatee Avenue and Ninth Avenue West and between Wares Creek and 26th Street West. The cause: a drastic drop in poverty rate, which is now about 11 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

The first Bradenton enterprise zone was created in 1985 by city ordinance. Three primary benefits of an enterprise zone, include:

n a job incentive tax credit;

n a business tax credit; and

n a property tax credit.

The job incentive offers businesses a tax credit to hire people in the enterprise zone.

"The enterprise zone was originally designed by state of Florida to encourage business in a somewhat challenged area to hire people in their own challenged area," Reiss said.

The property tax credit encourages people to open new businesses in the enterprise zone by reducing land acquisition costs.

The business tax credit encourages investment through a maximum $5,000 deduction on new equipment purchases.

Any business in the enterprise zone can take advantage of the incentives. In 2012, Bealls Department Store, Manatee Memorial Hospital and Tropicana all earned business tax credits.

"It's a great incentive," Reiss said. "I wish more businesses would take advantage of it. It's pretty simple."

Reiss said he does a lot of community outreach to let business operators know what is available because many more Bradenton businesses in could take advantage of them. "I wish people would do more than just listen," Reiss said. The enterprise zone changes will be advertised for 90 days before going to the Bradenton City Council for approval and sent on to Tallahassee for approval.

The Enterprise Zone Board meets quarterly.

Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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